Pope Francis takes on his first full day as leader of the Catholic Church after being elected in the papal conclave on Wednesday.
He opened his pontificate with a visit to Rome’s St. Mary Major basilica.
The Pope, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, entered the basilica through a side entrance Thursday morning just after 8 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) and left about 30 minutes later.
At noon Eastern Time, Pope Francis celebrated an inaugural mass at the Sistine Chapel with the cardinals who elected him.
It was a time of song and prayer.
In his homily, Pope Francis said “after these days of grace, I hope we’ll have courage to walk in the presence of the lord and rebuild his church.”
Bill Steinberg from the Toronto Archdiocese told CityNews Channel that Pope Francis brings with him a social justice sensibility.
“He is going to bring a social justice, service of the poor, called to the service of others,” Steinberg said.
And the Pope is continuing in his common ways, collecting his own luggage and paying his hotel bill.
One of the cardinals inside the conclave was Toronto Archbishop Cardinal Thomas Collins, who described the experience of his very first conclave to 680News.
“It was an awesome experience — some of the most moving in my life — there is that place where the Pope goes when he leaves to dress, the cardinal comes out with a white robe and when you see him come to the door for the very first time dressed in white, you think ‘oh my’ there’s the Holy Father,” Collins told 680News.
There will also be a focus on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Vatican said Pope Francis will visit his predecessor in the next few days.
The visit is significant because Benedict’s resignation has apparently raised concerns about potential power conflicts emerging from the peculiar situation of having a reigning pope and a retired one alive at the same time.
Francis, the first Jesuit pope and first non-European since the Middle Ages, decided to call himself Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor.
One of the cardinals also reveals that shortly after his election, Pope Francis, known for his humility and simplicity, shunned the papal limousine for a shuttle bus with other cardinals to return to a Vatican residence for a meal.
Pope Francis will be formally installed as pontiff on Tuesday, March 19. The day coincides with the feast of St. Joseph, the patron saint of Italy.